A generator converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. Generators are used in a multitude of applications including portable sources of power and backup power sources. Tiny generators can be used to power the lights on a bicycle and very large ones supply the vast majority of energy to our electric power grids.

Generators may be powered by diesel, gasoline, propane and even human energy. In spite of the varying sources of power, the principles of a large Caterpillar diesel generator and that of a generator used for camping are similar. But how does a Generator Work to produce electricity?

How does a generator work? – The Basics

It may help to understand that generators don’t create electrical energy as much as it facilitates it. It does this through the electromagnetic principles first discovered by Michael Faraday in the early 1830’s. Faraday’s work was considered so important, it is said Albert Einstein kept a picture of him on a wall in his study.

Faraday found that by wrapping two insulated coils of wire around a ring made of iron and passing current through one of them, the current was inducted into the second coil of wire. This is the core principle of motors and generators to this day. It is called electromagnetic induction.

How do components of a generator set work together?

The components of a generator work together to convert mechanical energy into electricity. For the sake of simplicity, we are using an engine as the source of mechanical energy.

  • The Engine: The more powerful the engine is in a generator, the more power it will produce. Larger generators functions are generally powered by diesel.
  • The Alternator: The alternator includes a stationary component called the stator, and a second moving component called the rotor. It is the rotor (rotor is a moving component of an electromagnetic system in the electric motor) that produces a rotating magnetic field in one of the several ways, usually depending on the size of the generator. Large generators, for example, produce the magnetic field by induction. Small generators may use a permanent magnet. Alternators may also use an exciter, powered by a small source of direct current (DC) using rings and brushes.
  • Voltage Regulator: The voltage regulator regulates the voltage that is put out by the generator.

You should read detail about how components of diesel, ac, dc, electric and wind generator set function.

diesel generator components overview

Check More About: Types of Generator at CSDG and Generators for Sale at CSDG

How do generators create or produce electricity?

With the engine creating mechanical power, the voltage regulator works with the alternator in a four-step cycle that continues to repeat itself until maximum power is achieved. First, the voltage regulator takes a small amount of AC voltage, then converts it to DC current which it sends to the secondary exciter windings of the stator. These secondary exciter windings, now mimic the primary stator windings, by producing an additional amount of AC voltage. The secondary exciter windings are connected to rotating rectifiers, which converts the AC current from the windings to DC current, which is sent to the rotor. This creates an electromagnetic field which is added to the existing rotating magnetic field of the rotor. The rotor induces this higher AC voltage across the windings of the stator, which, in turn, produces a higher amount of AC voltage from the generator.

The cycle continues until capacity of the generator is achieved. As its power increases the voltage regulator will produce less and less DC current. At optimum output, only enough DC current is produced to keep it running at capacity. When the output decreases, when a load is added for example, the voltage regulator goes back into action, once again creating the cycle to keep the power level at capacity. This will continue until the generator is powered down, either intentionally, through a lack of fuel, or perhaps a due to a mechanical breakdown.

Other Aspects of Large Generators

While the above addresses how a generator works, it does not include all of the components of a large generator such as a Caterpillar 3512C. Beyond the engine, alternator and voltage regulator, generators need a source of fuel, like a fuel tank along with a fuel system. The size of the fuel tank will dictate how long the generator will produce power before refueling. Large generators need a cooling system and a way to dissipate exhaust. A control panel makes the operation of a generator more simple, and a battery charger will keep your generator ready when needed. Generators are generally mounted on some type of frame suitable for its size. It is important to consider more than just power when deciding what generator is right for your particular application, and we can help.

Caterpillar Generator

Whether you are in search of a new diesel generator or a used diesel generator, we encourage you to contact us at Central States Diesel Generators. Whether it be for used Caterpillar 3412 generator or a new diesel generator, view our inventory and contact us with your questions. Get the power you need with the help of Central States Diesel Generators.